White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to a reporter during Wednesday’s White House press briefing who suggested that prioritizing teachers receiving the coronavirus vaccine is “anti-equity since most teachers are white.”
During the question portion of the briefing, Psaki was answering questions from CBS reporter Weijia Jiang about the coronavirus vaccine as it relates to reopening schools, when Jiang brought up race as a factor in vaccine prioritizations. (RELATED: ‘It’s Not A Trick Question’: CNN Anchor Pushes Spokesperson For Kamala Harris To Stop Dodging On Teacher Vaccinations)
Jiang began by quoting epidemiologist, and CNN analyst, Dr. Celine Gounder, who called the move to prioritize teachers in getting the coronavirus vaccine “anti-equity since most teachers are white,” and said that the prioritization is “taking away” from people who are “underserved.”
“What is the administration doing to make sure teachers and these people who are underserved will have the same access to vaccines?” she asked.
“Well, first, we simply disagree, and not just me or the president, but the head of our equity taskforce and our health and medical team, for a couple of reasons,” Psaki responded.
She went on to describe that the vaccination prioritization program “is beyond teachers,” and that it includes other workers who interact with students, and that they are “incredibly diverse.” She added that “getting kids back in school is one of the most equitable steps we can take,” since “black and Latino” students are “disproportionately experiencing learning loss.”
“Internet interconnectivity, parents who are disproportionately frontline workers, and this compounds the damaging effects of policies that already leave students of color with lower quality resources. So, our view is actually that this step is one that is meant to help communities of color, help students who are already being disproportionately disadvantaged by schools being closed,” Psaki concluded.
President Joe Biden has called on every state to have all their teachers vaccinated by the end of March so that more schools can continue to reopen. Teachers unions across the country have been strong advocates for keeping schools closed and continuing virtual classroom instruction, even though the CDC released guidelines on reopening last Summer.
The CDC released updated guidelines in February saying that schools could fully reopen without requiring teachers to be vaccinated.